Empress Elisabeth (1837-1898) continues to fascinate the world with her personality, politics, and fashion. But where should you go in Vienna to best experience “Sisi” and follow in her regal footsteps?
- Many locations are within walking distance of each other
- If you only have time for one place, then visit the Sisi Museum in the Hofburg
- See also:
Build your own Sisi tour
Empress Elisabeth counts as one of the great historical personalities associated with Vienna. To understand why, read this quick overview of her biography and cultural importance.
I’ve put together some suggestions for your personal Sisi tour, complete with a map and links to detailed articles containing more information, photos, and local travel tips.
The Hofburg in the very centre of Vienna is your No.1 priority for a Sisi-themed visit to Vienna. Elisabeth and her husband, Franz Joseph, lived in this huge complex, which formed the main Habsburg residence in town.
The Sisi museum
(Sisi Museum, Michaelerkuppel, entrance; © Schloß Schönbrunn Kultur- und Betriebsges.m.b.H., Severin Wurnig)
The self-guided Hofburg ticket covers three major attractions:
- The Sisi Museum: learn about Elisabeth’s life, loves, travels, and troubles. The exhibits include numerous personal items from the Empress’s possessions, as well as replicas of gowns and jewellery
- The Kaiserappartements: explore the very apartments Elisabeth called home. These offer clues to her style and personality, such as the choice of photos on the walls (bad news if your name is Franz Joseph)
- The Silberkammer: view a huge range of Habsburg household items with many once used by the Empress (or associated with her), such as the “dolphin” crockery service from Sisi’s Achilleion villa refuge in Corfu
(Schönbrunn Palace, Toilette room of Empress Elisabeth © Schloß Schönbrunn Kultur- und Betriebsges.m.b.H. – Alexander Eugen Koller)
The Schönbrunn complex is the Habsburg “country” palace and park that the city swallowed up long ago. Like the Hofburg, it also offers several chances to immerse yourself in Empress Elisabeth’s life and times.
You can spend a day seeing all the attractions at Schönbrunn, but staying with the Sisi theme…
- The main palace tours include a set of rooms lived in by the empress. The chambers you see include her study, dressing room and salon, as well as the royal couple’s bedroom and dining room.
- Sisi makes an appearance in the Schloss Schönbrunn VR experience (also located within the main palace building).
- The Wagenburg (Imperial Carriage Collection) has a dedicated Elisabeth exhibition (see below)
Ostensibly a showcase for the many royal carriages and vehicles, this museum among the Schönbrunn Palace outbuildings also has an extra treat for Sisi fans: the Empress Elisabeth exhibition.
This exhibition features a series of videos accompanied by relevant display items, including the empress’s wedding train and the very carriage (once owned by Napoleon) that bore her into Vienna for the first time in 1854.
The Hofburg and Schönbrunn allow you to explore Elisabeth’s story and surrounds in considerable detail. To immerse yourself further in Sisi’s legacy…
Vienna Furniture Museum
(Once the imperial furniture collection and now the furniture museum)
The Möbelmuseum Wien (Vienna Furniture Museum) does what it says on the label. The museum has a huge potpourri of fittings and furnishings from times gone past, including many used by Sisi.
The displays include other items with a Sisi connection, too, such as a fascinating series of lithographs of the Empress, a set of scales (well used), a fan, and much more.
A small film tour featuring the museum exhibits used in the (romantic but inaccurate) Sisi movie trilogy from the 1950s rounds off the Elisabeth theme.
(Pay your respects to the empress in person)
The vast majority of Habsburg monarchs find their last resting place in the Kapuzinergruft (Imperial Crypt).
Sisi has no great ostentatious mausoleum in the style of the likes of Empress Maria Theresa. Instead, you’ll find the coffins of Franz Joseph, Elisabeth, and their son (Crown Prince Rudolph) behind glass in a simple chamber. Expect to see fresh flowers laid nearby.
(The unassuming entrance hides an ancient church)
Elisabeth married Franz Joseph at the Augustinerkirche on April 24th, 1854, soon after her arrival in Vienna. The church served the court for almost three centuries and traces its origins back to the early 14th century.
Sisi and Franz Joseph are not the only famous couple associated with the Augustinerkirche. In 1810, for example, Archduchess Marie Louise married Napoleon here, albeit by proxy (the French emperor did not turn up in person!).
(Press photo: Lisa Rastl © Wien Museum)
Franz Joseph spared no effort in trying to keep his wife happy, never working out that it really wasn’t in his power to do so.
One such effort was to build the Hermesvilla for Elisabeth, a large summerhouse out in the Lainzer Tiergarten woodland park at the edge of Vienna. He hoped its idyllic location might persuade her to spend more time in the city.
Interestingly, some of the inside decor in Elisabeth’s rooms stemmed from the hands of a young Gustav Klimt before he turned his artistic eye to more modernist pleasures.
The park is quite a way away from the centre (and the villa quite a way from the park entrance), so probably only worth a visit for diehard Sisi fans.
Virtual reality tours
(Another immersive option for experiencing Sisi)
I already mentioned the Schönbrunn VR option, but Vienna offers plenty more on the infotainment front. Sisi shows herself in other popular virtual reality and immersive experiences in the city. For example:
- Sisi’s Amazing Journey: enjoy a short documentary on Elisabeth’s story before the Empress herself accompanies you on a fun virtual reality boat ride
- Time Travel Vienna: 5D, VR and animatronic experiences covering many key moments and personalities in Vienna’s long history
- Future Bus tour: Sisi pops up briefly (I think: my memory is not so good these days) at one of the stops on this combined bus and VR tour.
The Volksgarten memorial
(A tranquil space in the heart of Vienna)
The 1907 memorial to Elisabeth erected close to the Hofburg just a few years after her death remains a surprisingly well-kept secret.
Despite taking up a big chunk of the very central Volksgarten park, the statue and gardens seem a touch isolated from everything else. Much like the empress herself.
Approach it from the Heldenplatz side of the park to get a view down a narrow avenue embellished with flowers and topiary (with Sisi at the end).
Demel & Sluka
(A favourite of the Empress herself and still going strong)
Consider these two rather fine, traditional coffee and cake shops in Vienna’s centre.
- The interior of Demel feels like the film location for a Regency period drama. These official suppliers of all things sweet to Franz Joseph’s court delivered the candied violets that Sisi so loved. And you can still buy them today from Demel’s store on Kohlmarkt.
- The Empress apparently also visited Sluka next to city hall; today’s white and gold panelled interior seems to pay tribute to the former imperial guest.
The Technical Museum
(A science and technology museum with a Sisi bonus)
Bear with me.
In among the scientific instruments and satellites of the Technisches Museum is the original 1873 sleeper railway carriage used by Elisabeth for long-distance trips. You can peek through the windows to see her bed, toilet, and similar.
(View of Upper Belvedere from the Baroque gardens)
Finally, not a home or particular haunt of the Empress, but the permanent art exhibition at Belvedere may include a rather unusual portrait.
The 1883 Anton Romako painting has a darkness to it quite unlike anything you typically associate with Elisabeth. She stands stark, distant and seemingly unapproachable. You can hardly believe this is her.
Do check it’s viewable, though, before visiting specifically for this portrait; Belvedere often changes up its displays and works of art can sometimes go on loan elsewhere for exhibitions.